Takeaway: Christianity is about a life lived, more than beliefs understood.
If you don’t know about ChristianAudio, then you are missing out on at least a half dozen really good free audiobooks a year. They give away one audiobook a month free. About half of them are really good modern books. Other books that they have given away this year that I downloaded are Crazy Love by Francis Chan, Desiring God by John Piper, Just Courage by Gary Hougen, The Mark of a Christian by Francis Schaffer, Jesus of Myth and History by NT Wright (a lecture), and Spiritual Disciplines for a Christian Life by Donald Whitney.
I am about six months behind on listening to this. (Amazing how little time I have these days to listen to long audiobooks now that I am a full time nanny for my 26 month old and 8 month old nieces and still working about 12 to 15 hours a week as a consultant.)
While I am glad I got this (I have never read a full book by Leonard Sweet as far as I can remember), his writing style in this book makes audio a less than ideal format. There is a ton of great content here. The quotes alone are worth the book, but there are so many quotes and so many asides it is hard to follow the main train of the thought. (Although it may be that listening to it while doing data entry late at night is not the best time and situation either.)
Clearly Sweet is a smart guy. He is quoting from all over the place (and defends quoting from all over the place in a brief aside, where he quotes Augustine saying, “A person who is a good and true Christian should realize that truth belongs to his Lord, wherever it is found, gathering and acknowledging it even in pagan literature.’) But part of my attraction to him and my frustration with this book in its audio form, is that is take a wide range of paradoxical and disparate lines of reasoning and recreates them in line of reasoning that is full of (intentionally) continued paradox.
Sweet wants us to see the Christian life not as a series of beliefs but as a life. He uses the acronym MRI (Missonal, Relational and Incarnational) as a way to show exactly how our living is changed when it is based around ‘channeling’ Christ.
He has a good section about how we as Christians confuse faith and belief. He asserts that the term ‘believer’ is recent and that we confuse people when we call ‘followers of Jesus’ believers. We don’t believe our way into heaven. We have faith and are credited, through grace, redemption. As he says, even Satan ‘believes’ in Jesus, but that has not saved him (read Luke 4).
Another helpful discussion is about the balance between doctrine and relationship in the Christian life. A woman can tell you about her husband (doctrine) or she can introduce you to him (relationship). But depending on how you want to have a relationship doctrine may be needed. If you want to marry him, doctrine is important because he is already married. If you want him to pay piano for you, doctrine is helpful because he does not play piano. Then the best line of the section comes, (I am paraphrasing here since it is an audiobook) “Doctrine is not to help you know about God, but to bring you into right relationship with God.”